Thursday, November 10, 2005

Get John Deere On the Phone

What if we detected a moderate-sized asteroid on a collision course with the earth? Two NASA astronauts have proposed a simple and elegant solution, just published in Nature:
No need to send Bruce Willis into space with a nuclear bomb - the best way to deal with a killer asteroid hurtling towards Earth could be a "gravity tractor". Two NASA astronauts, gently mocking the solution offered in the Hollywood blockbuster Armageddon, have come up with a deceptively simple plan to pull asteroids off course.

Edward Lu and Stanley Love have proposed that a rocket be launched into space, effectively to act as a giant magnet.

Landing on an asteroid, which is no more than a spinning pile of rubble, is very difficult to achieve. Instead, the gravity tractor would travel alongside the asteroid and gradually pull it off course, using nothing more than the gravitational pull between the two bodies. "This saves you from having to land on the asteroid and then trying to stabilize yourself on a flying pile of rock and debris which is spinning all the time," Love said after their plan was published on Wednesday in the science journal Nature.

Lu and Love calculated that, with sufficient warning, a 20-ton gravity tractor could safely deflect an asteroid 200 meters across in about a year of towing.

Full article...
BTW, an asteroid is due to pass close to earth on Friday, April 13, 2029. (Friday the 13th?) But Love is not losing any sleep over it..... just yet.


Mike Täht said...

Dude, an asteroid passes fairly close to earth every day...

Randy G said...

Yes, but nothing even nearly as close to earth as the refined predictions for this one.